Symphony Hall in Atlanta was the perfect venue on Sunday night for a night of symphonic or progressive rock played by the band that were at the forefront of the musical genre’s creation. Yes played for more than two hours on Sunday night to a packed, genuinely engaged and appreciative, auditorium of almost 1,700 fans.
The Symphony Hall provided a perfect venue with the right amount of ambience with gravitas that accorded the appropriate level of respect to the music being played. Yes’ influence on rock music during the seventies is undeniable. The audience were also dutiful and respecting of the band and its music, an unusual trait at many live shows in Atlanta these days.
Yes played three albums in their entirety on Sunday night starting the evening with “Close to the Edge” originally released in 1972. They then played “Going for the One” released in 1977 and finished the evening with “The Yes Album” which came out in 1971.
Yes have been in existence more than 40 years and while the line-up has changed considerably since their formation the interpretation of their music has not. Of the original band only Chris Squire the bassist remains but Alan White, on drums, and Steve Howe on lead guitar have been around since the early seventies and were band members at the time of the three albums original releases. Geoff Downes on keyboards has been part of the band since being asked to join in the early 1980’s while he was half of the pop music duo The Buggles, honestly!
The most recent addition to the band is also the most contentious, at least as far as some Yes fans are concerned. Jon Davison is now the lead vocalist of Yes assuming responsibility for a role that was always been considered to be Jon Anderson’s.
Davison’s vocal style provides an exact live rendering of Anderson’s vocals from the albums and as one long standing fan told me “…if you close your eyes you are listening to the music the way the band wanted it to be heard” before adding that Yes music has always been more important than the individual band members.
With Davison’s vocals as the focal point for most of the evening, Yes played some magnificent versions of the albums from start to finish. Given the live setting, some of the music really benefitted from being “stripped down” versions not subject to the overproduction of the recording studio and often characteristic of progressive rock.
While “Close to the Edge” is considered by many to be the benchmark against which progressive rock is measured it appeared the band warmed more to “Going for the One” with “Parallels” and “Awaken” providing the audience with some mesmerizing solos and Chris Squires’ three necked bass guitar. “Wondrous Stories” provided Jon Davison with an opportunity to play an acoustic guitar while Geoff Downes keyboards provided the underpinning for the song.
Saving the best for last, Yes played “The Yes Album” after the intermission with Starship Trooper and its three movements particularly “Wurm” providing the band ample opportunity for some improvisation while the commercially successful “I’ve Seen All Good People” was wonderful.
The band returned to the stage for an encore of their biggest commercial hit, “Roundabout” to the delight of the crowd.
All in all it was a great evening of some of rock’s most influential music played by some incredibly talented musicians. Complementing the music was a venue that provided perfect acoustics allowing the music to be heard as it was meant to be heard and as it was played and sung.